Montana Politics

Your Montana Labor Movement

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When union leaders wonder why there is such hostility towards organized labor in the United States today, they are quick to blame corporate pressure, job competition, and a hostile administration. It might do them some good to start looking at how their own actions impact public perception of their value.

According to Charles Johnson, the Department of Labor terminated a contract with the Montana AFL-CIO Monday for wasting a bunch of your money:

It found that for every $1 spent to help displaced workers in Montana, the AFL-CIO spent $4.01 on its own staff salaries for its Project Challenge: Work Again program.

Certainly Jim McGarvey, the very well paid Montana AFL-CIO executive secretary, had a reasonable explanation, right? Not so much:

McGarvey called the Labor Department statistics “one-sided” and disagreed with Kelly, saying: “My answer to Kelly saying we’re ‘upside down’ is that’s one school of thought and not a very well thought-out one at that.”

It’s hard to argue with a finely honed statistical treatise like that.

I don’t particularly relish bashing the labor movement. My family is union family, and I am a union worker. I think organized labor has been an essential tool for providing reasonable working conditions for Americans, but when labor leaders and staffers become more important than the workers they are supposed to support, it’s rarely the political leadership of unions who suffer. Instead, its the very workers who support them. Just ask Jim McGarvey:

McGarvey said the layoffs wouldn’t affect the remaining four jobs at the AFL-CIO. These positions are involved in what he called “political action” and weren’t involved in Project Challenge, and vice versa.

That’s certainly a relief. I don’t know what workers in Montana would do without the political efforts of the AFL-CIO, an organization that promised its endorsement to Max Baucus despite a weak labor record, no matter who his opponents are. The labor movement certainly needs to keep those essential political positions in place.

Absolutely, the labor movement has enemies, in corporations and government. It’s just damn disappointing when the enemy is inside.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

8 Comments

  • Union bashing at it’s finest! Hell, that’s the way that most ALL programs like this operate! Sheesh. Give it a rest, Pog.

  • Let me try again. Unions are THE BEST! $4 of bureaucracy for $1 of services? That’s AWESOME! Let’s shoot for $8:$1, guys.

    I want the labor movement to do well. Do you really think it does when they act this way? And do you really think the Schweitzer administration is union busting?

    I think not.

  • It’s a tough line of work when the strongest union by membership in the state happens to be the teachers union. Union management isn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t blame bureaucracy or mismanagement for the dwindling power of unions in Montana.

  • The whole issue of the teachers and the AFL-CIO is another serious dispute in the union world.

    You’re probably right that mismanagement isn’t the sole cause of declining unions, but it certainly doesn’t help. Read the reaction to this story in the local papers across the state, and you’ll see just how eager some people are to tear down unions. When they mismanage funds, it does a lot of harm.

    Nice to hear from you, by the way. 🙂

  • It’s easy to pick on unions when their down. I think labor mobility has had a lot to do with that, especially in Montana. The mortgage crisis might reverse the trend, who knows? Non-profits and political progressive groups seem to be filling the power vacuum, but not with the same efficacy.
    I like the site, I’ll try to keep up. : )

  • If you are like a lot of people you can simply overlook this. The best thing you can do is become relevant with yourself and faithful with your own morals. This will lead to a sad and unfulfilling life.

  • Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog shine. Please let me know where you got your theme. Thanks

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